RJC High School’s Music Director, Kayleigh Skomorowski, received a surprise tribute at the end of the first performance of RJC’s spring musical, All Shook Up. After Principal Ryan Wood thanked the sold-out audience for coming and supporting the students and the school, he invited Tricia McEwan, a member of the board of the Saskatchewan Band Association to come to the stage.
Once at the microphone, McEwan announced that Mrs. Skomorowski had been nominated for and was being awarded the Saskatchewan Band Association’s Distinguished Director Award.
The Distinguished Band Director Award is given in recognition of a band director who has made a significant contribution to band in Saskatchewan and in the preamble to the presentation McEwan shared the many ways Mrs. Skomorowski has done just that. During her time at St. Mary’s High School in Prince Albert, she developed the music program which included concert band, jazz band, and the pit band for the spring musicals every year. She also launched a Pep Band specifically for pep rallies to support the school’s various sporting groups through the combination of music and school spirit. Kayleigh was also director for the community-focused adult band, the Prince Albert Concert Band. Under her direction, the band flourished and expanded its membership welcoming several of Kayleigh’s senior band students who continued in their membership after graduation. In March of this year, she accepted the Band Director role for the junior Saskatchewan Youth Band, a special provincial Honour Band.
The Saskatchewan Band Association is a registered charity that was established in 1983, and 2023 marks its 40th anniversary being the voice of the many wonderful bands we have in this province. The Association is dedicated to the development, support, and promotion of Band music throughout the province by representing community bands, school bands, the Saskatchewan Pipe Band Association, band directors, music educators, band parent associations, students, and educational institutions. Grant funding programs are also available to SBA members and member organizations for the support and delivery of special projects, community band programs, and band festivals. Grant Funding is only accessible to SBA members and applications must illustrate how they contribute to at least one of the goals of the SBA.
As a part of their role in supporting directors, educators, students, and institutions, the SBA offers several scholarships and recognition awards each year. Provincial Awards are used to recognize those who have an impact on the development and success of band at the regional or provincial level. “Kayleigh has built many band programs from the ground up, inspiring young band musicians over the years,” McEwan said. “Her dedication to band music has been evident throughout her career and certainly during her tenure on the Board of Directors of the SBA,” she added. “With her energy, enthusiasm, and zest for life, she is a beacon for her students, colleagues, and friends.”
Principal Ryan Wood agrees with McEwan’s summation of Kayleigh’s commitment and gifts, having this to share, “I have been very impressed with Kayleigh’s dedication to her students as RJC’s Music Director this year. Kayleigh is that wonderful blend of an incredibly talented musician, who is also a great teacher. She cares for music, and she cares for her students, and it shows in all that she does. She is a passionate advocate for student success through music, and we are excited with what she has to offer our students as we build our band program alongside our other fine arts and music programming in the years to come.”
In an interview conducted by Emily Summach for an article in the October 2022 Canadian Mennonite, Kayleigh shared that had heard the RJC Singers perform under the directorship of her predecessor, Richard Janzen and she knew that if the position at RJC ever became available, she would apply. “I want to acknowledge that I’m reaping the benefits of Richard Janzen’s career, which could be intimidating, but he’s been so supportive,” she says. “Richard isn’t a looming shadow. He’s a cheerleader and is really supportive of the work that I am doing. I’m grateful to be standing on the shoulders of a giant.”
In the same interview, Janzen who retired from RJC in June 2022, after spending 30 years as the school’s music educator, shared that he moved to Manitoba, from Ontario to study first at the Canadian Mennonite Bible College and then at the University of Manitoba, where he studied music and education. After his graduation, he heard about an opening at RJC. “RJC was very well known for its choral music program, which was my true passion,” he shared. “I had other job offers, and we could have stayed in Manitoba, but RJC just seemed to be the right fit. And it was. I spent my entire career there.”
“It’s been really great, you know, the pieces that brought me here, the choir program and the opportunity and appetite to build that band stream,” Skomorowski said last fall, “RJC has the values that I’m looking for in my professional life and my vocation, and I’m enjoying immersing myself in that.”
The Distinguished Band Director Award is evidence of not only her past accomplishments, but also her current. She has not stepped into Janzen’s shoes but has set hers beside his and made the role her own. Congratulations, Kayleigh.
By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative
Reporter with the Wakaw Recorder